"Without a Doubt" - February 28th, 2021
Updated: Mar 1, 2021
And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you forever.
1 Peter 5:10
Message of Stewardship
from Herb Gore
One of my favorite jokes that I've heard year in and year out, but it never gets old,
is there are two problems with getting old. The first is your memory begins to go and the second is…I forget. The reason it's funny because because it's so true.
Memory is a funny thing, however. If you ever talked with close childhood friends, or siblings, or classmates about something that happened in your growing up years and they remember it very differently than you do. It's a shame they don't have the good memory that you do. But that's very typical.
I have found out from some reading that many times it's not so much what happened, but what happens to us and how we choose to remember something. You can see this in cases where it's fairly recent, if you've ever been on a jury and had to listen to testimony from witnesses about an accident or something. They were both there but both saw things very differently.
Our memory, as much as we would like to believe we have it together, really isn't always there. That's why we sort of look forward to touchstones in life and for me one of those is music. I can hear a song from my childhood, a popular song, or a hymn from church and they can transport me back to a different time. A happy time. Perhaps a sad time.
One of the things in our religious life that is so important is the music that we hear. There's an old Ethiopian proverb that says God hears me when I pray, but he loves me when I sing.
People have told of elderly people who are in the last stages of dementia who could not communicate, they could not remember anyone, but if you began playing a song, or singing something to them they would be able to sing along or hum along. There's something that's uplifting and I find that music is one of those gifts that God has given to all of us, even those of us who can't sing.
I believe that our church is truly blessed to have an outstanding music ministry. One that continues even during the pandemic. And I for one am looking forward to being able to hear it again in person in not too many months ahead. Let's make sure that our church is able to open the doors in the very distant future.
You can help to make that happen by contributing to the ongoing ministry of our church. You can drop the money off to the offering box at Little Brown Church. You can mail a check to COV. Or you can contribute online through PayPal at covtoday.org.
Let's go this day with a song in our heart. Even if it doesn't sound that great when we let it out.
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at the disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things.”
Pastor Michael's Sermon - February 28th, 2021
When I was a child, I participated in the Boy Scouts. I believe I've told you this before. As you know, there are many aspects to scouting. One of them involves going to camp! And one of the camps that I went to as a Boy Scout was Camp Cherry Valley on Catalina Island. I’m sure we've all been to Camp Cherry Valley.
This particular camp was one I only went to one time one summer and I believe it was for one week. We did a whole lot of activities throughout our time there including, I remember, doing work towards earning our swimming badge, which involved swimming in the ocean at seven o'clock in the morning. Oh and by the way, if you didn't jump off the deck right when they wanted you to, they would count to three and push you in and it was cold. And you had to do this while you were still wearing your pants because once you are in the ocean and you are treading water, you had to take off your pants, you had to tie the legs together,
and then you had to wave your pants over your head and fill them with air, and use your pants as a flotation device.
This is something that as I've grown older I have found I have absolutely no use for. At least so far.
Anyway, another thing we did almost every day was to take hikes. We took hikes all over the island. They were basically long walks except for this one particular hike. At one point in the week, we took the highly talked about ten-mile hike. It was 5 miles walking to and then going up a hill and five miles back. And what was interesting about this hike was that all the kids who had never been to this camp and who had never taken this hike we're complaining about it from day one.
Ten miles! I don't want to walk 10 miles! What good is it going to do for us to walk 10 miles?
On the other hand all the kids who had been to the camp before we're very excited. They couldn't wait for the day of the hike to arrive so they could do the 10-mile hike again. Every time our counselor, Garth, would mention the hike they would cheer.
Well, the day of the hike finally arrived and like everything else that seemed to happen at this camp, the hike began very early in the morning. We were supposed to meet at a particular meeting point. It was a trash can, it was right in the middle of the camp. which was suspended in the air between a tripod to keep it up so that the wild boar couldn't get to it.
Now, of course the boys who had been on the hike before, arrived very early, very excited. Us newbies on the other hand, well we were a little late. And as soon as we had all arrived, we began the hike. I remember that most of the hike felt like we were walking straight uphill. The trail was dirt and rocks and because of that, most of the time we were slipping on the rocks and having dirt kicked in our face from the campers who were walking ahead of us. There were prickly plants that were scraping our arms and our legs. There was poison ivy to avoid. And as the day went on it just kept getting hotter and hotter.
So all the new kids, including myself, spent a lot of time complaining.
When are we going to get to wherever it is that we're going? How much longer? I want to go back!
But the boys who had been on the hike before, they were having a great time! As they walked along, Garth was leading them in a chorus of left, left, left, right, left. We kept hiking for I don't know how long! And right when the trail seemed to be about a steep as it could get one of the cheerful hikers suddenly motioned head and said, “There it is! There's the Five Mile point!”
And the rest of us not so cheery hikers, we also got a little excited because we had heard that at the five-mile point, we could take a bit of a rest before heading back.
So we kept walking towards the Five Mile Point. Getting closer and closer.
And then finally we passed through some trees.
And there we were, on top of the hill, and in front of us was a huge meadow. And we all stood together in the middle of this meadow at the top of the hill and we had a 360 degree view of the island and the Pacific Ocean all around us. It was pretty amazing. As we stood and looked at the view I suddenly realized that the campers who had been there before weren't bothered by the long walk and the rocks and the dirt and the prickly plants because they knew what was ahead. They knew that at the end of the trail. There was a remarkable place.
It was a place they couldn't wait to get to a place of beauty and peace.
When I read today's scripture, it reminded me of this story about the hike. Not that I'm comparing the sufferings of our ten mile walk to the sufferings of Christ. But the story of the hike is a reminder that very often, no matter what we're going through, we need to keep our eyes and our hearts on what is to come. And that day on Catalina Island, the hikers who had taken the walk before look forward to it because they knew what was ahead and that's what they concentrated on.
In today's scripture, Christ accuses Peter of not keeping his eyes and heart focused on what is ahead, but rather says that Peter is fixated on Earthly, human things. You know when we read this, it can be easy for us to say, "Oh, that Peter! What is wrong with him? Doesn't he know what's important?"
We can be a little judgmental of Peter. But the truth is most of us are guilty of this. Pobably more often than we would like to admit, our world and our lives are filled with things that we don't or can't understand and we spend so much time trying to make everything in the world, everything in our lives, into a perfect package of the way we know things to be or the way we want things to be.
It is human for us to experience trouble in our lives.
It is human for us to experience loss.
It is human for us to come up against burdens, obstacles, trials.
And it is human for us to place much of our focus on what it is in this life that isn't the way that we would like it to be.
In today's scripture, Christ reminds Peter and in doing so reminds us that although these are human traits, this is not where we should be setting our minds. Of course, there are things that come up in our lives to which our attention needs to be drawn. But where our minds should ultimately be set, what our minds should be unyieldingly locked into, is that which is divine.
Our minds can visit and tend to that which is human. But at no time must we let go of that which is divine. This is our faith. As Christians, this is the foundation of who we are. Our continuing walk with Christ, the eternal presence of God and the life that has been promised to us beyond our time on this Earth. This is our faith.
Let us not be distracted by Earthly things. Now again, that's not to say that we shouldn't be affected by sadness or tragedy or burdens in our world and in our lives. It's not to say that trials and loss shouldn't trouble us. It's just that during any time, especially during times of darkness, we must never lose focus of divine things. We must never lose focus of the promises that we've been given and we must never lose focus of the eternal life that awaits us on the horizon.
There's a song that some of you know has become very important to me and special to me lately. It's a song that we've sung a lot in this church, especially at the five o'clock service. Many of you know it. It's called Sweet, Sweet Spirit.
The lyrics of the song are simple and beautiful and sweet. But probably the most important lyrics are the ones that end the songs refrain.
Without a doubt we'll know that we have been revived when we shall leave this place.
And the three most important words within those words? Without a doubt.
Because when we move through this world absolutely sure without a doubt that there is eternal life, that we will one day walk on God's celestial shore, we will unquestionably walk through this life mindful of divine things.
Let us pray.
Holy God, keep our minds and our hearts directed towards you. Remind us that you are ever present. That Christ walks with us always. And because we live the word, our life is eternal. It's in your son's name we pray.